Today's reading: Luke 21:25-36
Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near. (v. 28)
The scriptures... the Gospels... the birth story of Jesus are all full of "Do not be afraids." Over and over God tells people not to fear. When they're faced with circumstances beyond their control, callings beyond their understanding, conceptions beyond the realm of possibility, God says: "Fear not."
There's plenty to be afraid of. But let's not be too self-centered about that; fear isn't only a reality that we face in this nation, in these days. Fearfulness is both universal and timeless; on the other side of the world, thousands of years ago, God was saying "don't fear, don't be afraid, fear not."
In a bout of prophecy, the Gospel writer foretells the return trip that Christ will make: heralded by signs in the heavens and on the earth, accompanied by roaring of the seas, surrounded by the passed-out bodies of people whose fear consumes them. But to God's people, the writer says: Instead of fainting in fear, stand up! Instead of hiding your eyes, raise up your heads! Instead of fearing of what is to come, be expectant for the arrival of your redemption! Don't be afraid!
Fear keeps us trapped in our houses, keeps us from taking up the road that would lead us out to meet the returning King. Fear keeps us buying protection, keeps us from investing our hearts in the One who saves. Fear keeps us isolated in case someone would hurt us, keeps us separate from communities of faith and opportunities for service.
Fear keeps us hunkered down and locked up tight, and makes it impossible for us to recognize our Redeemer or to welcome him back home.